The Birmingham Conversations: Talking Honestly in a City of Faiths
26 September 2016 by cofebirmingham

The Birmingham Conversations: Talking Honestly in a City of Faiths

Faith leaders should support mainstream leaders to set the tone of the city and campaign for issues unrelated to faiths, a report being launched in Birmingham has recommended.

Birmingham Conversations Symposium

The report follows six meetings of the Birmingham Conversations, convened by the Bishop of Birmingham David Urquhart, which brought together 35 people including Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Humanists along with people from business, education, the local authority and the arts.

A policy report with findings and recommendations for civic, business, political and education leaders has been produced as a result of the conversations. The report is written by Professor Andrew Davies of Birmingham University. It found that Birmingham is a city that cannot be understood without an appreciation of the role faith plays within it but equally the absence of faith must be recognised and welcomed.During the monthly meetings the conversations addressed one key question: 'How can faiths contribute to the flourishing of society?’ Topics discussed included faith in the public life of the city, media, education, faith on the streets, faith in the workplace and faith and politics.

Subah speaking at Birmingham Conversations symposiumThe report called for faith communities to introduce themselves to the world positively rather than complaining about a lack of religious literacy and to encourage friendships that cross community boundaries. The report urged street preachers and protestors 'to give attention to their manner of speech' and employers were urged to get a better understanding of the needs of people of faith in the workplace.

The report also noted that the white, working class community is often least heard and least engaged with the political process in our city. It urged faith leaders to model good disagreement while engaging politicians as people in their own right; speaking respectfully of and praying for our leaders and elected representatives.

More than 100 delegates attended a symposium held on Monday 19 th September, where the report, entitled Birmingham Conversations 2016: practical insights for faith communities and policymakers was released. A pictorial map of the conversations and artwork representing the journey of the participants in the conversations was also launched at the symposium held at the Central Synagogue in Birmingham. The title of the artwork (pictured above) is Dance.

Birmingham Conversations activityBishop David said: "In a city as diverse as Birmingham it's vital that people of all faiths and none are able to talk honestly about role of faith in public life. It has the potential to enhance and enrich public life, but can also be misused to the detriment of others. The Birmingham Conversations created a space to start discussing these issues, through the production of reports and artworks we hope that people across the city will join in with this important debate."

See to access the report, artwork, summaries of the Conversations and a short film about the project.